I have long believed that play is the heart of learning. In play, we create, take risks, fail, recreate, and grow. In my teaching, I offer children experiences in play with numbers, scientific principles, philosophical concepts, art, and language. These forays into learning always result in new and deeper understanding, and surprising discoveries. This week, I continued to think about poetry as play and encouraged 4th grade students to play with using Spanish words to enhance their poetry.
The students recently completed reading the mystery, Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes. The story centers around the theft of artist Frida Kahlo’s priceless peacock ring. The author added some Spanish words throughout the story to give her readers a connection to Spanish language and Mexican culture. Frida Kahlo often added words to her paintings such as “Viva la Vida.” Frida was a master at creating vivid images with paint to express her feelings.
After looking at many of Kahlo’s paintings, I asked the students to create vivid images with words by writing a poem using both English and Spanish words. I supplied them with a list of Spanish words and phrases used in the book and encouraged them to also add their own Spanish words to their poems. The students could write poems about something from the book or from Frida’s paintings that they had seen. I told them not to be afraid to play with words and ideas. I suggested that they should write a few poems and decide which ones they liked best.
Here is the way I explained how to build a poem with Spanish words:
Here are examples of poems I created to use as mentor texts:
Frida Azul Blue sky Azul Green leaves Verde Sad Face ¡No llores! ¡Lo siento! True Friend Una Buena Amiga Viva la Vida Para Siempre Forever Blue sky Azul Free Bird, Pájaro Libre Dark eyebrows Knitted together Take flight like the wings of a wild bird Pájaro Paloma Colibrí Pequeño Pero con una gran imaginación Perfecto She flies free High over Casa Azul High over Ciudad de México Sailing through the air calling, “Estoy aquí! Estoy aquí! Estoy aquí! I’m am here!”
Here are two student examples of playing with this concept:
I want to explore this concept of using multi-languages to express feelings and ideas. I realize that many students who are English Language Learners could excel at this activity and be class leaders in integrating two or more languages. How wonderful it would be to weave a student’s first language into their English poems and stories. I plan to play with this idea, build upon it, and see where it leads.
After walking in the park recently and witnessing a loving moment, I wrote this poem. I wanted to combine my experience with the words of Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. I use my own poetry practice to help me formulate how to present these same ideas to children.
Picture Books about Frida Kahlo
Frida by Jonah Winter
Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Yamilet Maldonado
Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself by Margaret Frith
I am Frida Kahlo by Brad Meltzer
Me, Frida by Amy Novesky
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales